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Curriculum "smoke screen" for unpopular agenda

1 July 2005

Curriculum "smoke screen" for unpopular agenda

National's change of focus onto the school curriculum is because their other divisive education policies have been roundly rejected says Education Minister Trevor Mallard.

"National got no traction on their divisive plans to privatise our schools through the introduction of vouchers and on their plans to privatise schools via a trust process," says Trevor Mallard. "Bill English is trying to throw the curriculum up now as a smoke screen, hoping that people won't remember their other unpopular policies.

"Mr English also seems to be ignoring the facts. International surveys of literacy consistently show New Zealand students to be among the top in the world.

"National's plan of $600 vouchers for those failing reading recovery are just ludicrous, and would be less than they get now. Students failing this level of intervention need thousands of dollars, not hundreds, to get them back on track. They are already getting this level of support through specialised Resource Teachers of Literacy. We will spend nearly $7 million on resource teachers this year alone, on top of the $20 million we will spend on reading recovery.

"That's because the Labour-led government already has significant interventions in place for children not reading well. National trying to reinvent the wheel here isn't student focused, it's about their stupid voucher ideology. That is truly disappointing."

Trevor Mallard says the reaction of school communities to the idea of compulsory bulk funding has been so strong that Mr English, a self-styled champion of parent choice, has admitted that this is one choice parents won't be given:

"No ifs, no buts, and no fighting in school communities over whether to have it. Everyone is going bulk funding. It’s a political decision... National has decided and that’s where we’re going," Mr English said on Radio New Zealand's Morning Report show on Monday.

"Equally, parents and schools have started asking important questions about what happens if school enrolment schemes are removed," said Trevor Mallard. "They have realised that some schools will be flooded with extra students, requiring huge and expensive new building programmes, which will significantly change the character of their schools. In Auckland they are saying the policy will add to morning commuter traffic chaos."

Trevor Mallard says the New Zealand Curriculum Framework was the National Party's flagship policy in the 1990s and six of the current seven curriculum statements were released when they were the government.

The Ministry of Education has a comprehensive review of the curriculum underway, known as the New Zealand Curriculum Project, because many of these curriculum statements are dated and very complicated.

The New Zealand Curriculum Project has four key goals: clarify and refine the curriculum focus on quality teaching strengthen school ownership of curriculum support communication and strengthen partnerships with parents and communities

"Before this review is finished it will have involved widespread consultation with parents and the education sector," said Trevor Mallard. "Mr English is desperate to switch the focus but he has grabbed for another area where slogans might sound good but will be seen through. Every parent in the country understands that the curriculum is vitally important to the choices and success of their children.

"Parents are not looking for populist attacks and they don't want to return to the divisive policies of old. They are looking for a well thought through approach that involves them. The National Party talks about parents but they don't really give a damn about them."


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